The Pros Are Conning Us!

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Small municipal government is the best government, where "best" means less obtrusive and offensive than its larger county, state, and federal counterparts. We can go for months with no contact with municipal government, and without feeling any effects of its actions in our daily lives.

True, from time to time we are advised that trash pick-up dates have changed, or that roadwork will be done at a certain place, but mostly the aldermen leave us alone, and vice versa. Next to no government at all, that’s as good as it gets, government-wise.

So I was surprised to receive in the mail a threat from the local rulers. It was entitled "Notice To Cut High Grass or Weeds," and informed me "we noticed that the grass and/or weed growth on the above referenced property was in excess of the six (6") inch maximum height allowed by Chapter 29 of the Code of Ordinances." It warned that, should we fail to cut the grass with five (5) days, the city would do it for us for a charge of "at least $75.00" with an additional cost of "$100.00 for the City Administrative cost related to the notification — ." With typical political logic, the city charges 100 bux to mail a letter, and 75 bux to cut the grass! But, of course, it’s for our own good. The city certainly doesn’t do these things for profit!

I hadn’t noticed anyone crawling about our place with a ruler, but it was certainly possible that the grass could have been over six inches tall in some places. Our lawn service, for some reason, has been somewhat dilatory of late, and the grass badly needs cutting by the time they arrive. Even so, on the day we received the Notice the grass was cut.

Now let me issue a word of warning: do NOT, unless you want to aggravate yourself, read the "laws" which you are expected to obey. Doing so will only result in pain, frustration, and exasperation, and could well make you a person targeted by government for punishment. But since the matter was so trivial, and access to the "law" so easy, via the internet (mankind’s greatest achievement in the fight — if there IS a fight! — for freedom) I decided to check out Chapter 29 of the Code of Ordinances for myself. As I suspected, it forbad the growth of weeds taller than six inches on any plot smaller than three acres, within the city limits. It did not mention, however, grass. Had I not looked further, I suppose I would have had to cut any weeds, but not grass, taller than six inches, in our yard. Not an easy task! So the Notice To Cut High Grass or Weeds could not have been based upon the ordinance cited, which did not deal with grass.

But I’ve learned that words in laws often don’t mean what they mean in ordinary conversation. So, just for fun, I decided to see if there was a definition of "weeds." Finding it wasn’t especially difficult, but for someone unfamiliar with internet searches, or the way ordinances are written, it could easily remain undiscovered. This, I found, is what "weeds" are, according to local ordinance: "all rank vegetable growth including trees and shrubs — ."

Well! If the words in "laws" actually mean anything, the Notice, over the signature of a functionary entitled Code Enforcement Inspector, meant that, pursuant to local "law," I had to cut all weeds (meaning grass, trees, and shrubs, as well as weeds) to a height of less than six inches. I wrote to the Code Enforcement Inspector and asked him if he could exempt me from the regulation that would require me to cut down all our trees and shrubs. I wondered, as well, if our neighbors, if they had not received the Notice, would thereby be exempt from the law, although they clearly had "weeds" on their property exceeding the six-inch height. To date, I’ve received no reply, which isn’t surprising. Government types tend to clam up when confronted with questions they can’t answer. It would not surprise me if Mr. Code Enforcement Inspector himself were unaware of what the ordinances actually said. Ignorance is government’s best friend, including ignorance on the part of the bureaucrats involved in seeing that the "laws" are carried out pursuant to the government’s agenda. I was amused to note that the Notice contained the municipality’s logo, which is a local landmark, surrounded by trees. A clear violation!

So do the words in statutes and ordinances mean what they say? In my experience, not necessarily. Indeed, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that government, at all levels, is not going to be thwarted by the law! For example: a friend of mine recently remarked that his broker had informed him that henceforth, his dividend checks would be subject to something called "backup withholding," meaning that 28% of the amount would be deducted from his check, and sent to the government. Out of curiosity, I decided to see what the law actually had to say about withholding, and — Wow!

But that’s another story!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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